Featuring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Baptiste Sornin
Screenwriters/Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Movie Website: www.ifcfilms.com/films/two-days-one-night
Verdict: A beautifully written, directed and performed piece of realist cinema, with Marion Cotillard exquisite in the lead role.
Great to kick off 2015 with a terrific film like this. Hopefully, it’s a forerunner of a bumper batch ahead.
The narrative is as simple and slight as they come: a young Belgian mother, Sandra (Marion Cotillard), having learnt that she has been laid off, spends the weekend visiting her co-workers to try to convince them to forgo their annual bonuses so that she can keep her job. Just out of hospital after a nervous breakdown and meek by nature, the task before her seems insurmountable, but with the constant encouragement of her husband she plugs on, calling on one person after another.
In terms of action, there is not much more to the film than Sandra traipsing from one home to another, and pleading her case. However, as Monday approaches and her support numbers edge closer to the crucial majority she needs, the dramatic tension builds, and you find yourself on the edge of your seat, willing her on.
The simplicity of the narrative places Sandra in the full and unrelenting glare of the spotlight. There is nowhere for Cotillard to hide, but she is flawless in her sensitive depiction of Sandra’s courageous battle to overcome the low self-esteem that makes her humiliating mission so daunting, and riveting in her charting of her fragile character’s inching progress. She compels us along on her emotional rollercoaster ride: the tiny growth spurts in Sandra’s confidence as she scores small victories are warming, inspirational, yet just when she dares to hope, another co-worker turns her down. Her pain and despair as she crumples is palpable, but her husband is always there to pick her up and somehow she resumes the fight, running on empty save for his enduring love and support.
While this is an unremarkable suburban setting, and the characters ordinary people living small lives, all the dualities of large-scale drama are present: heroism and villainy, loyalty and treachery, self-interest and altruism, courage and cowardice…and the rewards for the viewer, as for the lead character who finds the guts to fight the good fight to the bitter-sweet sting-in-the-tail end, are rich indeed.
Two Days, One Night is realist cinema at its best. No guns, no ultra-violence, no lurid sex, no CGI – just an entirely credible narrative underlying a beautifully written, directed and performed piece of cinema, with Cotillard simply exquisite in the lead role. What more do you want?
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